Stuck out at Ora Banda, working fly-in fly-out on a gold exploration show, our only entertainment was the Sunday session at the Broad Arrow Tavern.
After a full week's work putting in grid lines, trailing through the bush with a roll of wire and a compass, drilling and sampling, and making billies of tea over stick fires for the geologists, we would knock off early, leaving our corrugated iron camp for the simple pleasures of beer, beer, and more beer at the Broad Arrow Sunday session.
The Broad Arrow was a 30km drive over a rough gravel road. We wouldn’t hang about. The standing record in a Hilux, held by Bernie, was 14 minutes 30 seconds door-to-door, at an average speed of 125km/h.
Even though the Toyota was airborne much of the time, we only rolled one company vehicle in six months. And while Bernie was, in all probability, a complete lunatic, he was also my boss. So I’d just hang on and not say a word. As well as teaching me how not to drive, Bernie taught me how not to handle explosives.
He had just spent his fly-out break in Bali, sucking down native hallucinogens in Blue Meanie smoothies, and although he was physically back at work, his mind was elsewhere. So we were well over our record time when we pulled up in a cloud of dust outside the corrugated walls of the Broad Arrow. The pub was inscribed inside and out with graffiti, full of prospectors, travellers, and the town crowd from Kalgoorlie. It was rowdy and raucous. Some of the nurses were there, playing pool in the back bar.
The hotel owner Tom, a "colourful racing identity", was behind the bar talking nags with a customer. An old prospector, Clarence, sat on his regular stool, quietly composed, his battered Akubra on the bar next to his usual pony glass. "Gets too warm otherwise," he'd say about his comically small glasses of beer.
Photo Rosemary Lynch
We front up to the bar. Tom comes over.
“What you having.”
“Middy of VB.”
Tom looks at me. Today i don’t feel much like beer. I feel like tequila.
“I’ll have a tequila,” i say. “With lime and soda.”
Tom looks slowly from me to Bernie and back again. He raises an eyebrow.
“I’ll get Dougie,” he says. “He does all the fancy drinks.”